An interesting week on jury duty. . .

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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby KC5AV » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:46 pm

powerboatr wrote:Thank you
for the article and your view
99 years......sounds crazy, it would seem better to extinguish his lights
save all of us $$ housing and feeding this turkey for 99

The problem with that is that, with the appeals process, it would actually cost MORE to execute a prisoner than to house them for 99 years.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby fickman » Fri Aug 03, 2012 2:59 pm

We actually gave him 99 years for each of the 11 aggravated assault charges we had, plus 20 years for the burglary charge, but since the charges all came from one criminal act, the sentences run concurrently.

The DA had 10 more charges (each victim is a separate charge) held back in case anything went wrong in our case.

Here's the Star-Telegram Crime Reporter's Live Blog of Sentencing Day

And, kudos to Tarrant County and our bailiff for making it as enjoyable as possible. I registered online and got my court assignment via email the week before, so I got to show up an hour later on Monday. Plus, after the first day, the pay is decent. They cut me a check for just over $140 for the week.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby WildBill » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:40 pm

fickman wrote:They cut me a check for just over $140 for the week.
Thanks for doing your civic duty. :txflag: :patriot:

Don't spend it all in one place. ;-)
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby The Annoyed Man » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:43 pm

Two somewhat different viewpoints:
VMI77 wrote:
stealthfightrf17 wrote:If people who commeit vilont crimes were sentenced to death by any means, they could never do it again. Plus it would send a very strong message to those thinking about it. The older I am getting the more pro I am for public executions. I see how it would send a very strong message that we will not tolerate this.


Our system works (well, is supposed to work) on proportionality. The problem with execution for mere violence is that it creates the perverse incentive to kill all victims and eliminate them as witnesses, since if the thugs are caught, they'll be executed anyway. The death penalty needs to be reserved for those who actually kill their victims, otherwise it is likely to increase the number of dead innocents. Of course, to be effective, it also needs to be imposed regularly and swiftly --not an occasional execution 10 years after the crime.

powerboatr wrote:Thank you
for the article and your view
99 years......sounds crazy, it would seem better to extinguish his lights
save all of us $$ housing and feeding this turkey for 99

VMI77, I agree that we have a system based on proportionality. The problem isn't proportionality. The problem is that the measuring stick keep shifting. The 19th century equivalent of auto-theft was horse-theft. They used to hang people for horse-theft. If that standard continued today, car-thieves would be executed. Despite my attempt at humor in previous posts, I'm not advocating for the state execution of car thieves............although I care little if they get shot to death in flagrante by the car's legitimate owner. That's just a risk of the car thief's chosen profession. If they can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. There exists a right to defend one's property. There exists no right to steal what isn't yours.

Rape was considered a capital offense until as recently as 1977 (SOURCE). Is rape more or less prevalent today than it was pre-1977? I don't really know the factual answer, but it seems like it is more prevalent now than it was then. For sure they were more afraid of getting caught then than now. So whenever people keep moving the yardstick in the direction of mercy, it seems that the automatic and unequivocal fallout is that crime expands to take advantage of it.

Another member said of me not too long ago that I had a draconian sense of justice. I found that interesting because it begs the question of "what is the purpose of Justice." What should be our expectations for it? Does justice exist to punish the wrong-doer and discourage further wrong-doing? Does it exist to protect society at large from predation at large? Does it exist to exact an element of revenge on behalf of the wronged? Finally, does justice exist to ensure that the offender does not receive cruel or unusual punishment? I would imagine that the answer is all of the above. I would argue that proportionality not only should take into account whether or not the punishment fits the crime, but it should also take into account the convict's share of the equity in administration of justice. As the old saying goes, "don't start none, and there won't be none." It is tempting to argue that this is a concept that criminals don't understand anymore than a shark understands attacking a swimmer. But they are not the same. The criminal knows what he's doing is wrong. He tries to cover it up to keep from getting caught. He flees. He resists arrest. He pleads innocent when he knows he's guilty as heck—and not just because he doesn't want to get punished, but because he is a serial liar. These are the things that make him a criminal—as opposed to a shark or a mountain lion, which is merely being what God (or evolution, or whatever you believe in) designed it to be. Humans are not designed to be criminals. Criminality is an aberration, and it is most often one that humans choose to engage in because their moral compass is broken.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby PUCKER » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:22 pm

TAM for President and/or Supreme Court Justice!!! Hey, why not both, right? :biggrinjester:
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby The Annoyed Man » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:38 pm

PUCKER wrote:TAM for President and/or Supreme Court Justice!!! Hey, why not both, right? :biggrinjester:

Well thank you, but you don't want me for the job. Believe me. I smoked enough dope when I was a kid to give Bill "I didn't inhale" Clinton lung cancer. I might push the big red button, just to see what really happens. :mrgreen:
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby VMI77 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:03 am

The Annoyed Man wrote:Two somewhat different viewpoints:
VMI77 wrote:
stealthfightrf17 wrote:If people who commeit vilont crimes were sentenced to death by any means, they could never do it again. Plus it would send a very strong message to those thinking about it. The older I am getting the more pro I am for public executions. I see how it would send a very strong message that we will not tolerate this.


Our system works (well, is supposed to work) on proportionality. The problem with execution for mere violence is that it creates the perverse incentive to kill all victims and eliminate them as witnesses, since if the thugs are caught, they'll be executed anyway. The death penalty needs to be reserved for those who actually kill their victims, otherwise it is likely to increase the number of dead innocents. Of course, to be effective, it also needs to be imposed regularly and swiftly --not an occasional execution 10 years after the crime.

powerboatr wrote:Thank you
for the article and your view
99 years......sounds crazy, it would seem better to extinguish his lights
save all of us $$ housing and feeding this turkey for 99

VMI77, I agree that we have a system based on proportionality. The problem isn't proportionality. The problem is that the measuring stick keep shifting. The 19th century equivalent of auto-theft was horse-theft. They used to hang people for horse-theft. If that standard continued today, car-thieves would be executed. Despite my attempt at humor in previous posts, I'm not advocating for the state execution of car thieves............although I care little if they get shot to death in flagrante by the car's legitimate owner. That's just a risk of the car thief's chosen profession. If they can't take the heat, they should get out of the kitchen. There exists a right to defend one's property. There exists no right to steal what isn't yours.

Rape was considered a capital offense until as recently as 1977 (SOURCE). Is rape more or less prevalent today than it was pre-1977? I don't really know the factual answer, but it seems like it is more prevalent now than it was then. For sure they were more afraid of getting caught then than now. So whenever people keep moving the yardstick in the direction of mercy, it seems that the automatic and unequivocal fallout is that crime expands to take advantage of it.

Another member said of me not too long ago that I had a draconian sense of justice. I found that interesting because it begs the question of "what is the purpose of Justice." What should be our expectations for it? Does justice exist to punish the wrong-doer and discourage further wrong-doing? Does it exist to protect society at large from predation at large? Does it exist to exact an element of revenge on behalf of the wronged? Finally, does justice exist to ensure that the offender does not receive cruel or unusual punishment? I would imagine that the answer is all of the above. I would argue that proportionality not only should take into account whether or not the punishment fits the crime, but it should also take into account the convict's share of the equity in administration of justice. As the old saying goes, "don't start none, and there won't be none." It is tempting to argue that this is a concept that criminals don't understand anymore than a shark understands attacking a swimmer. But they are not the same. The criminal knows what he's doing is wrong. He tries to cover it up to keep from getting caught. He flees. He resists arrest. He pleads innocent when he knows he's guilty as heck—and not just because he doesn't want to get punished, but because he is a serial liar. These are the things that make him a criminal—as opposed to a shark or a mountain lion, which is merely being what God (or evolution, or whatever you believe in) designed it to be. Humans are not designed to be criminals. Criminality is an aberration, and it is most often one that humans choose to engage in because their moral compass is broken.


I don't see anything in this I disagree with, it's all pretty much a matter of where you draw the line. On the whole, in Texas, I think the law as written is pretty well balanced, though not so much in the application. That doesn't' necessarily mean I agree with all aspects of it, or would write it that way myself, but in those instances where I would balance things more in favor of, say, property owners, I can understand why the law is written as it is and accept that there are some good reasons for it. I'm not the kind of person who says broadly that "a life is worth more than a television set." It may well be, but not when the person is in my home trying to steal one. I'm more of the, "I agree, life is worth more than a television, and the guy trying to steal it should have thought of that before he decided to steal one" kind of guy. I think when you prohibit the use of deadly force on the notion that life is more valuable than property you actually get less reverence for life and no respect for property. You get the UK, where criminals break into occupied homes with impunity because they know the homeowner can't touch them.

So, while I don't advocate shooting someone over a television set, I'm inclined to believe that a better balance of rights is achieved when a thief has to fear for his life rather than a property owner having to fear for his (not just from violence, but from being destroyed in the courts). I think that when someone initiates a crime of violence there should be no requirement for the person attacked to divine his attacker's intent, or the potential limits of his assault --the law should assume the worst, and I think the law in Texas pretty much does that (though perhaps there is some room for improvement). However, I think the limits to such an act of self-defense, are, and should be different than punishment under the law administered by the State.

I was speaking broadly, but yes, I agree that there are some crimes short of murder that can reasonably be punished as capital crimes. For instance, you allude to executing horse thieves, and I think the basis for this law is that at the time, stealing a horse could be tantamount to murder. So if a criminal leaves someone he has assaulted to die in a ditch somewhere, that person's fortuitous survival should not negate the death penalty, because the act of the criminal is tantamount to murder. I don't think a criminal should get a break, because through no fault of his own, his victim survived his attack. However, I do think that when capital punishment is going to be applied to crimes short of murder, the potentially perverse consequences of such laws need to be carefully considered.

Texas is often portrayed as having some kind of harsh penal system and I think that is far from the truth. What I observe is that the majority of criminals are very lightly punished --not at all in proportion to their crimes-- and the death penalty is carried out so infrequently as to be nearly irrelevant. Executions in this state need to occur with far greater frequency. Oh yeah, there is also another category of crime which should be punished by swift and certain death even when the State cannot prove a single casualty: Treason. I believe there are a number of high officials and corporate officers in this country who should be tried and executed for Treason. Holder, for one, is an obvious choice, since he conspired to undermine the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, and his boss too, if evidence shows he was also involved in the conspiracy.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby fickman » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:04 pm

VMI77 wrote:Executions in this state need to occur with far greater frequency.

I'd like to see cases where there is no dispute about guilt (a very public murder, clear and convincing video or overwhelming eyewitness testimony) proceed through the system in an expedited manner. A trial could be underway in a few months or a year. A death sentence could be carried out in months or a year after sentencing. When there is absolutely no dispute about guilt e.g. Jack Ruby, the Colorado theater shooter, Gabby Gifford's shooter, there's no reason to draw the entire process out for ten to twelve years.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby VMI77 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:14 pm

fickman wrote:
VMI77 wrote:Executions in this state need to occur with far greater frequency.

I'd like to see cases where there is no dispute about guilt (a very public murder, clear and convincing video or overwhelming eyewitness testimony) proceed through the system in an expedited manner. A trial could be underway in a few months or a year. A death sentence could be carried out in months or a year after sentencing. When there is absolutely no dispute about guilt e.g. Jack Ruby, the Colorado theater shooter, Gabby Gifford's shooter, there's no reason to draw the entire process out for ten to twelve years.



No doubt there are people who have been punished from crimes they didn't commit, but I think it's the rare case where guilt is in serious dispute in capital trials. In any case, the place where guilt is decided is in the jury box, so unless the trial was "unfair" in some demonstrable way, then a jury has already decided someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Most of these long delays are not about innocence and guilt but simple exploitation of the system to fulfill the anti-capital punishment agenda. Furthermore, it is my understanding that in "most" cases that make it to trial, even when the defendant is "innocent" of a particular charge, he is usually guilty of an offense as bad or worse than the one he's on trial for.

Even a leftist like Dershowitz will admit that the jury members are really the only people who believe in presumptive innocence a a practical reality, and everyone working in the system knows that those who are actually brought to trial are in reality guilty of the offense they're being tried for, or something worse, far more than 90% of the time. I'm not attacking the presumption of innocence btw, I think it is an important part of our system ---I'm just recognizing that in practice, most of the people who get tried for a crime, are not innocent citizens who've slipped up for the first time, bur repeat offenders.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby Dave2 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:13 pm

The Annoyed Man wrote:I might push the big red button, just to see what really happens. :mrgreen:

A friend of mine had that button in his old cadillac... it made a small LED blink until you pushed it again. That's it.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby Gyrogearhead » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:33 pm

Rather than argue about whether capital punishment is moral or civilized we should re-examine the old French penal island concept.

As I understand it, at that time, conviction of a felony crime was prima facia evidence of one's inability to live within the confines of a civil society. Whether you came from a broken home, endured child abuse or whatever was not an issue. Your decision to comit the crime was your admission that you could not be trusted to play by the rules.

Convicts were therefore sent to a location of natural confinement where there was no civil society and no chance to return to one. The tax payer was only out the court and transportation costs essentially and the proceeding only took as long as the trial. From then on the convict's survival was entirely in his own hands. No help was offered from the society he had rejected.

If you had a personal issue with another individual you could either suck it up or challenge him to a duel and let God decide who's right. Survivors of duels were God's favored children and thus not considered subject to civil proceeding. At that time France was considered the most civilized country in the world.

Just my 2c

Gerry
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby The Annoyed Man » Thu Aug 09, 2012 3:01 pm

Gyrogearhead wrote:Rather than argue about whether capital punishment is moral or civilized we should re-examine the old French penal island concept.

As I understand it, at that time, conviction of a felony crime was prima facia evidence of one's inability to live within the confines of a civil society. Whether you came from a broken home, endured child abuse or whatever was not an issue. Your decision to comit the crime was your admission that you could not be trusted to play by the rules.

Convicts were therefore sent to a location of natural confinement where there was no civil society and no chance to return to one. The tax payer was only out the court and transportation costs essentially and the proceeding only took as long as the trial. From then on the convict's survival was entirely in his own hands. No help was offered from the society he had rejected.

If you had a personal issue with another individual you could either suck it up or challenge him to a duel and let God decide who's right. Survivors of duels were God's favored children and thus not considered subject to civil proceeding. At that time France was considered the most civilized country in the world.

Just my 2c

Gerry

I'm half French....my mother is the culprit. :mrgreen: Your sentiment may be correct, but you're wrong on a few of the facts. I was sentenced in absentia for draft evasion in France—most such sentences at the time being to hard labor. It is a long story, having mostly to do with my being at heart an American, not a Frenchman, and in the end, the French government quietly let the matter drop rather than lose face by throwing an American citizen into prison. I've been back twice since that episode.

The exile to Devil's Island was to be sent to a prison. It wasn't at all like prisoners being sent to Australia. Those colonists were essentially free once they arrived in Australia. Not so on Devil's island. You still had guards. You still had enforced hard labor. You still had punishments for disobedience. If you escaped, it was the same as if you had escaped from a prison. They would try to find you and put you back there. And then finally—and this is where your version more closely resembles the facts—if you survived your sentence (many did not because of disease and the harsh conditions), you could not be repatriated to France. Here's what happened instead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil's_Island
On 30 May 1854, France passed a new law of forced residency; it required convicts to stay in French Guiana after completion of sentence for a time equal to their forced labour time. If the original sentence exceeded eight years, they were forced to stay as residents for the remainder of their lives and were provided land to settle on. In time, a variety of penal regimes emerged, as convicts were divided into categories according to the severity of their crimes and the terms of their imprisonment or "forced residence" regime.[4]

An 1885 law provided for repeat offenders for minor crimes to be sent to the French Guiana prison system, previously reserved for serious offenders and political prisoners. A limited number of convicted women were also sent to French Guiana, with the intent that they marry freed male inmates to aid in settlement and development of the colony. As the results were poor, the government discontinued the practice in 1907.[4] On Devil's island, the small prison facility did not usually house more than 12 persons.[1].
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby fickman » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:02 pm

I still haven't gotten into my social analysis of the jury pool, which might say more about the state of our society than the facts of the trial itself.

I'll try to bullet point the main conclusions and can expand if anybody has questions. I found it possibly the most interesting part.

I was juror #26 in the pool. #43 ended up making it. The jury was incredibly diverse, but we also happened to be 100% white. I can assure you with every bit of integrity in my body that race or ethnicity played ZERO roll in our decision. The defendant had a fair trial. Race and ethnicity wasn't even discussed in the room.

Still, I can't help to think that his family looked at us and had thoughts like, "This is rigged!" or "How is THIS a 'fair' trial?"

Our profiles included a myriad of backgrounds, education levels, age, experience, perspective, and income levels:
- Retired female teacher from FWISD
- Mom w/ college-aged children from NY who lives in Grapevine
- 22-year old female college student at KU who was home for the summer
- Mid-30's doctor's wife from Mansfield
- Retired engineer (two maters degrees) from Lake Worth
- Homemaker from California who lives in Keller and has two grown children
- late-20s female DINK from Kansas that lives in Keller
- Mid-50s administrative professional
- mid-40s kind of polite and humble hard working East Texas man who is a union metal worker in Arlington (I'd describe him as an "aw-shucks" guy with the kindest intentions)
- Professional working mom with high-school aged kids and a degree from Texas Tech
- Middle aged female mother from Arlington
- me (early 30s)

The sad part is what happened during jury selection. The room of 70 was incredibly diverse. I was curious and interested in participating, but honestly had a family trip the next weekend that I ended up canceling. Before I mentioned the trip to the judge, I watched the room and decided that what I was seeing was offensive enough that I didn't want to use my trip (I had no money committed at the time) as an excuse.

In the hallway before they start the interviews, you expect all of the typical negative talk and bombastic statements about how "I'm going to say something extreme like, 'I hate cops' or 'Hang 'em all' to get out of here and get home." I didn't participate, but that seemed to be the norm. None of these people, however, followed through on these statements once they were seated in the courtroom after lunch, speaking in front of the judge, and having their words recorded.

But, when people realized that they could be declared ineligible as a juror by not considering the full range of punishments allowed under the law for the crimes, the campaigning began. It was my honest observation that the ones lobbying the most were my age and younger. Furthermore, one by one, the ethnic and racial diversity of the jury pool waned as people made purposeful statements to make themselves ineligible. The jury could have easily been half Hispanic, had black representation, or Asian representation on it. If some in these communities feel that our justice system is broken, those who were in my pool need to realize that participation is the only way to improve it.

I doubt the defendant - if he did notice the racial composition of the jury and felt it was unfair or "typical" - I doubt that he took time to remember back to jury selection and how many people were going out of their way to get sent home.

I was actively noticing this behavior by age on Monday as it was happening. I didn't notice the racial and ethnic component until the next day when I realized we all had one glaring thing in common. Then I thought of the two guys directly in front of me, and some other folks on their row - all who spoke up and became ineligible. For these cases, if somebody can't think of a scenario where each extreme of the punishment spectrum might be appropriate, there's either a crippling lack of creativity or they're being convenient to slip out the back door and abdicate their role in the justice system to somebody else.

It might be fair to say that some of those who essentially dismissed themselves had excusable situations. If you work on straight commission as one nice middle-aged black man told me he did, that could be a costly week. At the same time, everybody is inconvenienced somewhat by jury duty.

Still, I can only imagine if the trial was one step more public and got the attention of the national media. Who knows what kind of rhetoric might have been expressed on the courthouse steps if the talking heads showed up and looked us over one time.

Regardless, I can affirm with a clear conscience that the defendant was fairly convicted and sentenced based on the facts alone. This observation is part of what my wife calls my "natural tendency to overthink things", but nonetheless, I still found it interesting.

Quick background for those who haven't gone through the process:
We had 70 people in our jury pool, each randomly assigned a number (1-70). The first 12 are the jury. If one of them is ruled ineligible by the court or is stricken by an attorney, then #13 is the next juror. If two members of 1-12 are dismissed, then #13 and #14 are in the jury. Nobody gets to pick a juror. . . there's an elimination process and the lowest 12 remaining constitute the final jury.

Eligibility from the court's perspective (not a complete list):
1) You must be a resident of the county
2) You cannot have served on a jury in the last two years
3) You must be willing to consider the full range of punishment for the categories and severity of crime that the law allows.
For instance, aggravated robbery can carry from 5 years to 99 years or Life. For sentences of less than 10 years, it is also eligible for "community supervision" aka probation. If you cannot envision a scenario where somebody would deserve Life for aggravated robbery, you are deemed ineligible to be a juror by the court. Likewise, if you could never envision ANY situation in which aggravated robbery should be given probation, you will be dismissed.

Dismissals by the court do not count as a "strike" from either side.

Once the court has ruled which jurors are ineligible, the defense and prosecution may each strike up to 10 jurors. They do not have to offer a reason, and in fact, their strikes are confidential. They could use their strikes on the same people and not know it.

The prosecution and defense each get a turn to interview the jury pool. . . a process called voir dire.

Interestingly, I recognized the defense attorney's assistant at their table as soon as we entered the courtroom for the first time after lunch. She had been in the hallway all morning listening to our conversations, letting us assume she was part of the jury pool.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby SQLGeek » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:21 pm

A fascinating look into the workings of our justice system. Thank you for sharing, fickman.

Incidently, I have been tapped for jury duty this October. I've already decided I'm not going to be trying to get out of it at all.
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Re: An interesting week on jury duty. . .

Postby Texas Dan Mosby » Thu Aug 09, 2012 4:26 pm

Dominguez's mother, who had sat throughout the trial, was tearful after the sentencing.

"My son is not a bad kid," she said quietly.


And there it is....

I doubt that he took time to remember back to jury selection and how many people were going out of their way to get sent home.


Good point.

Hadn't considered that aspect of the jury selection process.
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